Fair Hiring Guide

The Interview

Before the Interview

To get the best information from interviews, adopt a strategy that allows interviewees to present their qualifications as thoroughly and as positively as possible. Start by making sure that all interviewees have the same expectations about the interview, know where to go, and have access to someone affiliated with the recruitment who can answer questions before the interview.

  • When a candidate is contacted for an interview be sure to share the names of who will be involved in the interview, and what process will be followed (see FAQ below). If the interview is in person, provide directions to the interview location and information about parking. If held over Zoom, ensure that the candidate has a reliable device to use for the interview, or discuss other options. Give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions.
  • Be cautious when leaving phone messages for a candidate in order to maintain their confidentiality and to avoid the possibility of jeopardizing their current employment.
  • When scheduling the interview, ask every candidate whether there is anything they’ll need for the interview (e.g., a map link to the interview location, parking information, etc.). Ask candidates if they would like to request a disability accommodation. If they do and you don’t know how to meet their request, contact Disability Management Services for information and assistance. For more information see Disabilities, below. Provide a follow up email confirming the date, time, location information, and who they can contact when a need comes up.
  • Schedule all in person interviews in fully accessible areas.
  • Consider providing the candidate with a copy of the interview questions 15 to 30 minutes prior to the interview. This gives the interviewee time to formulate responses and may relieve some pre-interview stress, which enables them to be at their best.

Developing Interview Questions

Develop a standard set of questions to be asked of all interviewees. The questions should always be based on the requirements for the job. A good way to start is to write at least one question for each qualification or combination of qualifications that share a set of skills. This ensures enough is learned from the interview to make informed decisions about how well interviewees meet the qualifications.

If during the initial screening you already evaluated how well applicants meet some of the qualifications, then there is no need to cover the topic again during the interview. The interview questions can focus on those qualifications that can only be evaluated from interactions during the interview.

You may also note any particular questions you have about an interviewee’s application, e.g. “We couldn’t tell from your application whether you actually resolve customers’ complaints, or just received and recorded them for someone else to resolve.” This is an example of a follow up question you may use with a particular candidate, which may not need to be asked of all interviewees.

The following are illegal to ask:

  • Age or birthdate
  • Maiden name or prior married name, marital status
  • Birthplace, nationality, race
  • Religion
  • Financial status (e.g. loans, bankruptcies, garnishments), or whether they rent or own a home
  • Arrest record
  • Current salary or salary history
  • Number and age of children, childcare arrangements
  • General medical condition, state of health, history of illnesses
  • Record of receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits
  • Dates of military service, type of discharge
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Sex

During the Interview

Do your best to ensure the space and committee members are ready to start on time. Try to put the interviewee at ease. It’s helpful to chat a bit and introduce everyone. It’s O.K. to smile and be friendly. Make sure to ask if they need anything before starting.

If an interviewee gives very short answers, it is important to ask follow-up questions rather than just noting “gave short answers”, or “not enough said in order to rate the answer”. Remember, this is an opportunity to learn all you can from the interviewee. Review their application materials before the interview and be prepared to ask follow up questions in areas you want to know more about which relate to the job that is being filled. Or, probe by asking them to expand on the short answer they gave and ask them to “say more about how the steps you took that helped achieve that outcome, what was your role?”, for example.

If the interviewee misunderstands a question, or finds that it is unclear, try saying it again in a different way.

If it is clear after the first few questions that the person doesn’t meet the qualifications for the job, continue the interview as thoroughly and professionally as you would with any other interviewee. When it’s obvious to a candidate that they aren’t being taken seriously, it’s easy for them to conclude that the process isn’t fair, or that they are not being given full consideration. This can possibly result in a formal complaint.

Leave time for an important last question: “Do you have any questions you’d like to ask us?” Interviewees feel more engaged when you allow them to interact.

Plan for final talking points to use when closing each interview.

  • Thank the candidates for their time and interest;
  • Describe the rest of your process (i.e., we have another two weeks of interviews, we will notify continuing candidates before calling their reference checks);
  • Tell them when they can expect to hear from you (give yourself plenty of time for short, unexpected delays);
  • Remind them of who they can contact in the future if they have questions or desire an update on their status.

Interviewees who aren’t being offered the job appreciate it if you call them with their final status. At the very minimum, notify them by email immediately either after you know they will not continue in the process, or if they are an alternate candidate for hire, notify them after the job offer has been accepted by the top candidate.


Remember that the University prohibits discrimination against any person seeking employment. For the full statement. Select this link for the full statement.

Make sure that your hiring process does not disadvantage interviewees with disabilities. Candidates must be evaluated on their abilities, not their disabilities. You are responsible for asking all interviewees if they require an accommodation in order to participate in the interview. You are also responsible for ensuring appropriate accommodations are provided, if requested. For example, you may need to arrange for a sign language interpreter for a deaf interviewee, or conduct the interview in a space that is accessible for interviewees with impaired mobility. For guidance on accommodating interviewees contact the Disability Management Coordinator (831/459-4602).

In order to properly accommodate a candidate with a disability, ask questions about the type of accommodation needed. However, do not make inquiries regarding the candidate’s health, medical history, or disability unless it directly relates to the ability to provide or clarify the requested accommodation.

After interviews, when you are considering hiring a qualified candidate with a disability, consider their ability to perform essential job functions with the addition of any needed reasonable accommodations. A reasonable accommodation is any alteration in the work environment or in the way things are usually done that makes it possible for a person with a disability to do the job. For guidance about accommodations for new employees, contact the Disability Management Coordinator.

Ask about a person’s abilities, not about her or his disabilities.

You may ask a candidate:

  • Only job-related questions that speak to the functions of the job for which the applicant is applying.
  • Can you perform this task, either with or without a reasonable accommodation?” Or, more generally, you may ask whether a candidate can perform the essential functions of the position with or without accommodation.
  • You may ask all candidates to describe or demonstrate how they would perform a task, but be sure to ask this of all candidates, not just those you think have a disability.
  • You may ask all candidates if they can meet the attendance requirements of the job.

Don’t ask a candidate:

  • about the nature or severity of a disability;
  • how much sick leave a person used in prior jobs;
  • whether they will need accommodation in order to do the job;
  • whether or not they have a disability or what the disability is.

Advice for interviewing applicants with visible disabilities:

  • Ask if a person needs assistance before assisting them.
  • If you’re not sure how to assist, ask what kind of assistance would be helpful.
  • Speak in a normal tone unless requested to do otherwise.
  • Look directly at the candidate, even if they are blind, because it will direct your voice in the right direction.
  • Talk directly to the candidate, even if the candidate is using a sign interpreter or has an attendant present.
  • When talking to a candidate in a wheelchair, try to be at their eye level, and choose to sit if possible.
  • If a candidate is missing a hand or arm, follow their lead; shake whatever they offer.
  • If a candidate appears with a guide dog or helper-dog, remember that it is not a pet, but a working dog. Don’t try to interact with the animal.
  • Allow ample time for responses from candidates with speech disorders (never assume a speech impairment means the person has a mental impairment).
  • If you do not understand what an applicant is saying, don’t pretend you understand. Ask them to repeat what they said.

If a candidate raises the issue of needing an accommodation in order to do the job, simply confirm it is the university’s policy to provide employment accommodations, and if they’re the successful candidate, you will discuss their needs and plan the appropriate arrangements before they start work.

Cultural Bias

Bias in Interviewing – Cross Cultural Misperceptions

Culture consists of learned and shared values, beliefs and behaviors. We all come to interviews with preferences for certain culturally defined behaviors, values and norms. Being aware that we bring these personal inclinations, or biases, to interview situations allows us to be more inclusive of individuals who are culturally different than ourselves.

Bias, or cultural programming, influences how we interpret what we hear and the behaviors we see. During job interviews, we interpret what we see and hear through our own cultural lenses and being aware of bias is essential in order to understand how to evaluate which behaviors are truly job related and which merely seem to be so.

Be aware that sometimes what we consider to be appropriate or desirable qualities in a candidate may reflect more about our personal preferences than what is actually needed to perform the job successfully. Being culturally inclusive requires a willingness to see differences as possibilities rather than obstacles.

To Avoid Being Sabotaged by Your Own Cultural Programming

Understand how powerful culture is and have a generosity of spirit about differences. Learning a new culture is very difficult and takes a lot of effort. The adaptation process is even more difficult in stressful times (such as when you’re in an interview) so people often resort to familiar and comfortable behaviors.

Expect that the people you will hire will be reshaped by being part of UC Santa Cruz and in turn, UC Santa Cruz will change. The process is positive and reciprocal – adaptation goes both ways and is essential for a healthy campus culture.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. When I call candidates for an interview, what kind of information should I give them?

    1. Explain how to get to campus and to the building and room and what the parking arrangements are (meters, parking permits), if driving. Mention the closest disability parking spaces.
    2. Once you have let them know they have been selected for an interview, it can be a good idea to highlight anything special about the position at this time to make sure they remain interested in the position. For example, explain that the position works an alternate schedule, requires traveling, or mention the budgeted salary and ask if it will meet their salary expectations, etc.
    3. Consider inviting them to arrive early and provide them with a copy of the interview questions 15 to 30 minutes prior to the interview. This helps to ensure they are better prepared to provide you an interactive and informative interview.
    4. Give the candidate your name and contact information in case they have to contact you again about the interview. In addition, give them an alternate contact name and phone number to use on the day of the interview in case you are not reachable.
    5. Ask them if they will need any additional information about what to expect during the interview and if they have any questions.
  2. What if I can’t reach a candidate to schedule an interview or what if they will not be available during the timeframe established for interviewing (e.g., they are on vacation)?

    1. While it is important to be as flexible as you can in scheduling interviews for your top candidates to ensure you get the best qualified person for the position, you must balance this against your need to fill the position in a timely manner.
    2. If a candidate selected for interview requests an interview date/time that falls outside of the timeframe set for interviewing, check to see if the timeframe can be extended. The best practice is to at least offer one alternate interview opportunity, it may be helpful to offer a remote interview. If the scheduling conflict continues such that the interview cannot take place, you should notate your efforts in attempting to resolve the matter, and indicate the candidate was unavailable for an interview on the Applicant and Candidate Disposition Log within the Recruitment Documents Suite.
  3. Do I have to ask each interviewee the same questions?

    1. The same standard questions should be asked of each interviewee. In addition, you may ask non-standard questions that are specific to an interviewee in order to clarify a response they gave, ask for examples or to elaborate on an example given, or to ask follow-up questions about an interviewee’s specific work history. You must ensure the standard and non-standard questions are always job related.
  4. What are the best kinds of interview questions?

    1. The best interview questions are simple, direct and open-ended, and are designed to draw out a person’s behaviors, abilities and experience with respect to the requirements of the job, e.g. “Have you worked with UNIX before? Would you please describe what you did? What other kinds of programs and software have you used?”
    2. The best predictor of future performance is past performance: ask applicants about what they’ve actually done, in specific behavioral terms whenever possible. For example, instead of asking, “Are you good at what you do?” ask for specifics: “What kinds of documents did you prepare? What steps did you take to resolve that problem? How much volume did you manage? What kinds of decisions were you asked to make? Describe the steps you take to cope with interruptions and still meet your deadlines?”
    3. Examples of kinds of interview questions:
      1. Questions of clarification that you might ask one person and not another, e.g.: We couldn’t tell from your application whether you designed workshops yourself or just conducted workshops that other people had designated. Could you tell us exactly what your responsibilities were?
      2. Direct questions are easy to understand, and are more likely to yield concise answers and specific information. Ask what you want to know, e.g.:
        1. What were your responsibilities at your last job?
        2. What kinds of software have you used? For what kinds of tasks?
        3. What kinds of decisions did you have authority to make on your own?
      3. Open-ended questions allow the candidate to decide how to present an answer, and may therefore reveal something about verbal communication skills, ways of organizing information, and the way a candidate thinks about things, e.g.:
        1. Tell us about your current job and your primary responsibilities.
        2. What do you think is the best way to develop leadership skills in students?
      4. Problem or situational questions require a candidate to analyze a situation and can tell you something about how they approach solving problems, e.g.:
        1. What would you do in a situation in which …?
        2. When you evaluate someone’s performance, how do you handle areas in which the person is not performing adequately?
      5. Questions that ask candidates to recall their actual past behavior in a situation can be very effective, e.g.:
        1. Think of a time you had to make a quick decision, and describe it for us.
        2. Tell us about a time when you disagreed with your supervisor. How did you approach him/her, and what was the result?
      6. Probing questions ask the candidate to tell you more or to clarify information on their application materials or a comment they made in the interview, e.g.:
        1. Could you explain more about what you mean by “student-oriented leadership”?
  5. How can I assess multicultural competence?

    1. Don’t assume, ask questions such as:
      1. What have you done that required communicating with people whose first language was not English? What do you think is important to be aware of in communicating with non-native speakers?
      2. We’d like you to think of a time when cultural differences came up in a job you held. Please describe the situation as well as how you managed it. What did you learn?
  6. Can I ask hypothetical questions?

    1. It’s fine to ask hypothetical, or situational, questions, e.g. “What would you do if ...”. However, keep in mind that many people’s behavior at work may differ from the behavior they describe during an interview. Rather than asking a hypothetical question, you are more likely to get more accurate behavioral information about the candidate if you ask them to describe their actual experiences and how they handled real situations, e.g. “We’d like you to think of a time in your work experience when you had to assist an unhappy customer. Please describe what their conflict was, and the steps you took to resolve the matter.”
  7. What are common mistakes in making interview judgments?

    1. First Impressions - Forming a favorable or unfavorable impression of someone in the first few minutes of the interview, and filtering or distorting information that comes later -- e.g., we may immediately like a charismatic candidate and not notice they lack specific qualifications for the job. Or, you may decide right away that the candidate is unsuitable and tune out for the rest of their interview (creating the danger that the person will notice they aren’t being seriously interviewed and assume they are being discriminated against).
    2. Halo Effect - Over generalizing: being so influenced by one striking characteristic of a candidate that you ignore all other characteristics, e.g. rating someone high overall because that person seems to be articulate, or rating someone low overall because they are quiet.
    3. Contrast Effect - The tendency to evaluate someone in comparison with something other than the criteria e.g., evaluating a candidate too highly because they were interviewed right after a very unqualified candidate.
    4. Negative Information - When trying to distinguish among well qualified candidates, avoid searching for negative information to use to disqualify a person. This can result in the negative factor having undue influence that may not make that much difference in later performance.
    5. Fleeing to Objective Indicators - When faced with difficult decisions among well-qualified candidates, avoid the tendency to search for any information that appears to be "objective" e.g., number of years of experience. This may not be a valid predictor of how strongly a candidate will perform. A high performing candidate with five years of experience may be more qualified than a moderate candidate with ten years of experience.
    6. The "Similar to Me" Effect - Being influenced by some way in which the candidate shares an experience or characteristic in common with you, e.g., where a person is from, the school they attended, etc. A similar dynamic is the impression that a person is a "UC Santa Cruz kind of person."
    7. Deciding who will “fit in well"; fit is based on an assumption that they are like us and therefore must be a good fit. It is important to avoid this as it results in screening out diversity of all kinds. Try to distinguish a valid criterion of "interpersonal skills", from bias based judgments of personal style. Dangers to watch for: individual differences in dress, accent, type of eye contact, degree of formality in an interview, assertiveness, etc., can have a very different meaning in different cultures and subcultures. Also watch for differences in sex and evaluating “style”, e.g. confident women may be more impressive to women than to men; tentative and friendly women may be more impressive to men than to women. Make sure your decisions are job-related and try to expose the existence of personal bias through discussion with the committee members.
    8. Inferences about motivation; assuming that we can know something about a candidate’s motivation by inference from his or her life's circumstances, e.g., that a candidate who "really needs a job" will be more motivated than one who isn't dependent on the income, or that a candidate who is currently commuting to a job "over the hill" is just looking for a way to avoid the commute. Related: "overqualified" judgments, i.e., that a candidate who has more than the required qualifications "will be bored with the job" and will leave as soon as a "better" job is available.